An Introduction to Polymer Labs, Cosmos, and IBC (Inter-Blockchain Communication)

What are Blockchains, and what’s all the fuss about?

Blockchains are distributed ledgers that store information. The information is stored in a group or blocks and joined together like a list, or a chain. The advancement of blockchain technology is fueling the industry to grow at an exponential rate. As of this year, there are more than 10,000 blockchains.

So what exactly is IBC?

IBC (Inter-Blockchain Communication) is a standard interoperability protocol that allows two or more blockchains to communicate. It is a general purpose message passing protocol, which means that any form of data can be sent and received using IBC. The Cosmos community developed the IBC specs and implemented them as pluggable Cosmos modules that enable IBC communication across the Cosmos Network. IBC’s first implementation was launched in 2021. There currently exists no industry standard for generic message passing and this vertical of interoperability represents the largest gap in blockchain tech.

High-level depiction of IBC packet flow between two blockchains

How does IBC work?

The following is a high-level overview of how IBC works. The in-depth understanding is explained in our upcoming article next week.

  1. Transport Layer
  2. Application Layer

Transport Layer

The transport Layer is responsible for transporting IBC data packets across the chain. In the postal service analogy, this layer is responsible for transporting packages from one place to another.

Application Layer

The application layer is what the end-users interact with. In the postal service analogy, the application layer would be when the package is wrapped on the sending side and when the receiving side opens up the package and extracts its contents.

What is Cosmos?

Cosmos is a burgeoning ecosystem of interconnected applications and services working towards a decentralized future. Also known as the “Internet of Blockchains,” all blockchains built with Cosmos SDK can communicate seamlessly, thanks to IBC.

Cosmos released the Cosmos SDK, a framework for building IBC-compatible blockchains, along with the Cosmos Hub, where all IBC-compatible blockchains are connected using the IBC standard. Cosmos is analogous to interconnected constellations, hence the name “Cosmos.”

What is Polymer?

Polymer Labs is focused on bringing IBC to all blockchains including those outside the Cosmos ecosystem. As of today, only IBC-enabled chains can communicate with each other using IBC specifications, but they must follow the compatibility requirements. Many notable blockchains, like Ethereum and Solana, do not follow these requirements, so these non-compliant chains (aka non-IBC-enabled chains) currently cannot utilize IBC to send secure messages across chains.

As an omni-chain hub, Polymer Chain follows the IBC standards and specifications, enabling IBC communication between:

1) IBC-enabled blockchains

2) IBC-enabled blockchains <> non-IBC blockchains

3) non-IBC blockchains <> non-IBC blockchains

High-level view of the Polymer Hub
Polymer’s vision: “Scale IBC interoperability to all chains.”

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Polymer Labs

Polymer Labs

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Polymer is building an IBC based multi-cluster networking protocol (Polymer) which will provide e2e IBC connectivity across ecosystems.